Our relationship was changed forever
We went our separate ways for the summer, and that should have been the end of it. But college is a cesspool, so there was more to come. September: I had had a couple drinks with my new roommates when Tom called to say he was back in town. He scooped me up onto the handlebars of his bike and we rode ecstatically through the empty streets, chatting all the way. We got back to his apartment and took shots, feeling invincible and healed. Friends! We could do this! Hell yeah!
But then Tom kissed me, and it was every bit as good as I remembered. He pulled back, checked in -- "I know we shouldn't, but..." I just kissed him back, done with pretending I didn't know what I wanted.
It was a one-time thing. No one really needed to know, right? Except it kept happening, which -- like our friendship -- kind of worked for a while. We kept seeing other people, but one or two times a month we'd lie about where we were sleeping and I'd slip up the back stairs to his apartment. Things didn't really end until the summer after senior year when we were both seeing people we cared about and decided we didn't want to screw that up.
It was hard for me (and still is) to think of Tom in a healthy relationship with someone else, but it meant that I got my life back. I couldn't love anyone, not really, with Tom around.
Sleeping with your best friend brings the highest highs… and the lowest lows
The thing about getting involved with your best friend is this: everything that is great, is crazy great. You know each other so well that there's no need for that awkward, slow slide towards intimacy that characterizes a new relationship. You're just there. They've usually seen you at your best and your most insane; there's a lack of judgment that makes you feel, almost instantly, known. The first time I slept with Tom was hilarious, sweet, and a little perfect. You don't get that with the guy you met at Bowery Electric at 3am on Saturday. I mean, I've tried. But first times have only existed in that way -- something next to perfect -- with Tom.
Of course, by that logic, everything that is awful is doubly, infinitely awful. When things end, they end hard. You're losing someone you love and have loved in a capacity beyond them being a fun sex partner. You're losing a potential life partner, because that's what a deep, real friendship can be. You also know how to hurt each other in a way that makes the inevitable breakup fights so, so shitty. I have said things to Tom that I still cringe to remember, years later.
It's a testament to our friendship, or whatever it is we have, that we still talk. And probably too much.
And you might never get over it
I saw Tom again about five months ago. I was visiting his city for less than 24 hours, but something in me felt like I had to see him. Maybe I just wanted to see how I'd do. Not so great, it turns out. I was shaking when he opened the door that morning.
Tom had cooked me breakfast, and while we were setting the table he "jokingly" asked if I'd stay in town if he married me.
"No," I said.
"It could be an open marriage," he smirked.
Right, Tom. Because that's what I've wanted from you. It took all my self-control not to ask if he wanted to try it for real. Instead, I pretended to be cool. "OK, if I can sleep with other people and live in New York, we can be married."
He touched my hand: "So basically, nothing would change?"
He tried to kiss me when I left and I let it slide off unacknowledged. But here I am, sending cryptic "I miss you" texts and imagining where we'd be if I'd only let him.
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Harriet Dent is a savvy lady writer who loves wearing too much black and eating too much Duane Reade-brand Nutella. She sometimes worries that flipping a coin is a misguided way to make life decisions.